A HUGE overhaul of Clifford’s Tower - including a controversial new visitor centre -has been approved by councillors, despite further stinging criticism.

City of York Council’s planning committee met on Thursday night and voted 11-3 in favour of English Heritage’s plans, which include a visitor centre built into the base of the motte and new walkways and stairwells inside the tower, working their way up to a bigger viewing platform looking over the city.

Cllr John Galvin, backing the scheme, said people nowadays demanded and expected a ‘decent interpretation’ of historic buildings, and there was not the space for this inside the tower.

Cllr Barbara Boyce said the tower was a ‘bit of a disappointment’ when people got inside, and she welcomed the changes.Cllr Janet Looker also backed the scheme, saying: “We need to get on with it.”

But Cllr Denise Craghill said of the visitor centre: “It looks dreadful and its totally intrusive in front of the iconic view of the tower,’ and Cllr Mark Warters said he wanted nothing to do with the ‘Disneyfication of an iconic, historic monument.’

Cllr Johnny Hayes, not a committee member, said the building reminded him of a toilet block, and people had described it as an ‘act of vandalism,’ a ‘bad joke’ and ‘like an act of sacrilege.’

York Press:

Former councillor Brian Watson said the proposed modern replacement steps would be ‘completely out of place.'

But Jeremy Ashbee, head properties curator at English Heritage, said present facilities were ‘inadequate, poorly accessible and inappropriate for a site of this importance.’

He said the proposals would make climbing the mound considerably easier for all walking visitors, and would replicate the visitor experience at ground level for those who could not manage any stairs.

“We are convinced that our improvements will make Clifford’s Tower the site that its history, its visitors and the city of York deserve,” he added.

An English Heritage spokeswoman said after the meeting that the work was expected to begin as soon as next month.

Hugh Broughton, of Hugh Broughton Architects, the project’s architects, said: “The designs have been developed to respect this cherished monument.They will enhance access, allow many more people to enjoy the Tower and provide much improved interpretation.